Oregon is a national leader in fruits & nuts

New statistics show Oregon among leading producers of various fruits & nuts
By Oregon Department of Ag.

Artists’ renditions of a cornucopia usually depict the cone-shaped container overflowing with fresh fruit. Oregon can take pride in providing its own “horn of plenty” filled with high quality tree fruit, berries, and even a type of nut not grown anywhere else in the United States. Updated national statistics just released this month show Oregon a leader in production of many types of non-citrus fruits. This is the time of year those statistics turn into delicious reality.

“It’s summer, and when it’s summer in Oregon, it’s time to get out there and enjoy our fresh, locally-grown fruit products whether they come from a farmers’ market, a grocery store, or your own garden,” says Gary Roth of the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s marketing and development director.

More than 225 different agricultural commodities are produced in Oregon. Many of them are fruit crops. Oregon leads the nation in production of several berry crops. But behind the numbers is the fact that the state’s climate and fertile soils– along with the skill and expertise of the growers– produce a great tasting, high-quality food product that is enjoyed locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Seasonally, it is the berry crops that first herald the Oregon harvest season in early summer. Some of those berries have already been consumed and many more are on the way.

“When people think of Oregon agriculture in the months of July and August, they think of berries,” says Roth. “Berries are really one of the signature crops for Oregon agriculture. We are the leading producer of many different types of caneberries and among the leaders in other berries.”

The US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has published its non-citrus fruits and nuts summary for 2011. A majority of the crops detailed in the report are grown in Oregon and, in fact, some are exclusive to the state. One-hundred percent of the nation’s commercial blackberries, black raspberries, and boysenberries come from Oregon. Marionberries, a cultivar of the blackberry, is also 100 percent Oregon.

The statistical summary shows there were 7,300 acres planted in commercial blackberries last year in Oregon, producing 26,400 tons with a value of $42.7 million– a significant increase in production value from $33.2 million in 2010. About half of that value is attributed to the 13,550 tons of Marionberries produced in Oregon fields last year.

Oregon also grows virtually all of the nation’s black raspberries and boysenberries. In 2011, there were 1,100 acres planted in black raspberries and 500 acres in boysenberries. It was a great year for black raspberry production with a value of $5.5 million, up from $2.1 million in 2010. The production value for boysenberries was also up from $1.8 million in 2010 to $2.6 million last year.

Northern neighbor Washington is the clear leader in red raspberry production, but Oregon is the nation’s second leading producer. While red raspberry production was down a bit to 1,200 acres last year, production was up to 6 million pounds for a production value of $6.4 million.

One of the most iconic of crops in Oregon is the strawberry. Overall production is a mere fraction of historical highs decades ago, but the industry appears to have stabilized a bit. Oregon ranks fourth in the nation in strawberry production, but is dominated by neighboring California. Still, the 2,000 acres harvested last year was actually a slight increase from the previous two years. More than 22 million pounds were harvested in 2010. By comparison, in 1988, Oregon had 7,800 acres in strawberry production with more than 100 million pounds harvested. California last year had 38,000 strawberry acres producing nearly 2 billion pounds.

Perhaps the brightest star in Oregon agriculture continues to be blueberries. Last year broke several records for blueberries– acreage (7,800 acres), production (65.5 million pounds), and value ($116 million). Only Michigan had higher production while Washington and Michigan had higher production values.

Cranberry production on the southern Oregon coast rebounded last year with 361,000 barrels produced at a value of $14.2 million. Oregon ranks fourth in cranberry production behind Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

Tree fruits also did well last year. Sweet cherries are vulnerable to weather impacts, but 2010 was a positive year. The 45,500 tons of production was up from 2010, but down from 2009. But the value of production last year hit $77.6 million– the highest mark in that three year period. Only California and Washington rank higher than Oregon in sweet cherry production.

Pears continue to be a perennial top ten Oregon agricultural commodity with 16,200 acres in pear orchards producing 227,000 tons last year, an improvement over 2010. The production value of $77.4 million last year, however, is down significantly from the previous two years as prices dropped. Washington and California rank ahead of Oregon nationally in pear production. Much of California’s production is in the Bartlett variety– mainly for canning– while Oregon and Washington produce a variety of fresh winter pears.

Oregon apple production doesn’t come close to rivaling the Washington giant, but still accounted for 92.5 million pounds and a value of $19.8 million last year, ranking seventh in the nation. Oregon is number two in production of prunes and plums with 9,400 tons and a value of $1.7 million last year.

The NASS survey also captures statistics on nut production. Oregon continues to produce all of the nation’s hazelnuts. Last year’s production of 38,500 tons is better than 2010, but not as good as 2009. The production value of $89.7 million, however, was the best mark in the last three years.

All in all, Oregon agriculture continues to supply consumers from Tualatin to Tokyo with a variety of high quality fruit. Oregon may not challenge states like California in sheer volume, but it can make the case that the quality of berries, tree fruit, and nuts produced within its borders can’t be beat.

For more information, contact Bruce Pokarney at (503) 986-4559.

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